- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

DENVER (AP) — Rescuers credited snowboarder John Ryan with doing all the right things to survive three days lost in the mountains outside a ski resort area, but the 31-year-old doubts he would have made it through another night.

“I did a lot of praying up there, praying that I would see my family again,” Mr. Ryan said yesterday from his bed at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. “I had no idea exactly where I was.”

He said he could lose some toes to frostbite because his feet were wet in the extreme cold.

Mr. Ryan was found Saturday, three days after he wandered outside the boundary of the Keystone Ski Resort into an area known as Jones Gulch, at about 11,000 feet. When he didn’t show up for work at the Pumphouse Brewery in Longmont on Thursday night, he was reported missing by his wife, Karyn, and fellow employees.

His car was found in the Keystone parking lot 60 miles west of Denver, and the resort determined that he had last used a lift ticket at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Mr. Ryan said he was snowboarding through trees and tried to go to another lift, but couldn’t find it.

“Then I knew I was lost. I tried to walk out but the snow was hip deep. So I sat on a tree branch, coming out of the base of a tree. Froze like crazy,” he said.

Mr. Ryan used pine boughs to build a snow fort for shelter. More snow fell over the next two days and temperatures fell into the low teens, and he didn’t have the energy to try to wade through the snow.

On Friday, he heard snowmobiles and sirens in the distance, and saw a search helicopter.

He tried walking out again Saturday morning but made it only 20 feet before returning to his fort. He heard nothing and feared rescuers had given up on him.

“I didn’t know the length of time someone could live [in such conditions],” Mr. Ryan said. “So I didn’t know if they would give up.”

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